Interview with Glen Clark
The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.
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Robert Franklin: Okay. So, before—so I have a little boilerplate at the beginning, and then we’ll just go straight into it, and I’ll ask you about your dad and mom and—
Glen Clark: Okay.
Franklin: And what you remember, what they told you, and then your childhood in Richland. Okay, great.
Clark: I’m just following the lead.
Franklin: Okay, good. Well, eventually, you’ll have to lead.
Clark: Okay, I will. We’ll BS with the best of them.
Franklin: Okay, awesome. Ready?
Lori Larsen: Yeah.
Franklin: Okay. My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Glen Clark on February—March 7, 2017. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Glen about his experiences growing up in Richland and his father’s and mother’s experiences growing up in the area before Hanford—before the Hanford Site came. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Clark: It’s Glen Clark. G-L-E-N. C-L-A-R-K.
Franklin: Great, thanks, Glen. So your father and mother were both born here, in the old towns of Hanford and White Bluffs?
Clark: They were raised.
Franklin: Raised, okay.
Clark: Yes, and actually, I think my dad was born at Hanford.
Franklin: At the town of Hanford.
Clark: Town of Hanford, yes.
Franklin: And then your mother came to White Bluffs?
Franklin: What can you recall about what they’ve told you about their childhoods in the area?
Clark: You know, we could go on for hours.
Clark: And I had the opportunity, three or four or five times to go out to the site with them, or with my dad and uncles. They used to have a Hanford-White Bluffs picnic every year here in Richland. And if you signed up ahead of time, they’d badge you and you could actually go out to—normally, we met at the high school, what was the remnants of the high school.
Franklin: The Hanford high school.
Clarke: The Hanford high school. And then from there, they just said, go any place you want. Obey signs, obviously, radioactive signs, and be out of here by 1:00.
Clark: So we had an opportunity to go out and actually was able to get into, I call it a basement, but the hollow under my grandparents’ home, that is still there.
Clark: Yeah, it’s basically a hole in the ground.
Franklin: Okay, that would’ve been like a cellar?
Clark: So I think it was a two-bedroom house and they raised six boys there. But slept on the porches and out in the sagebrush or wherever they could find someplace to sleep. And my mom moved here later than that. She wasn’t born here. I think she was born in Prosser. And her stepfather worked for Atomic Energy Commission, and that was actually prior to the Hanford Site being taken over. And they had an orchard out in the White Bluffs area.
Franklin: So—but he didn’t work for the AEC before the Manhattan Project.
Clark: He worked for the AEC before the Manhattan Project.
Franklin: Okay. What was the scope of the AEC at the time?
Clark: You know, unfortunately, I was too doggone young to listen to my step-grandfather, who was quite a bit older than my grandmother. But anyway, I didn’t get the opportunity to really find out what was going on then.
Franklin: Sure, sure. And do you know roughly when your mother moved to White Bluffs?
Clark: No, she went through high school in White Bluffs.
Clark: So her grandparents were from Prosser. He was a colonel, Colonel Baker. He was actually a real estate and insurance guy back, turn of the century, and did some surveying work. My grandmother was editor of the paper in Prosser for several years.
Clark: Great-grandmother. No, grandmother. Great-grandmother. Great-grandmother. I’ll get it right here sooner or later.
Franklin: And how many times did you go out with your father and uncles, out to the Site?
Clark: It was either four or five summers that we got an opportunity to go out there, and we’d go down to the pump station along the river, which is just down the road from their old house. And there’s over on this side was a guy by the name of John Kashier, had a five-acre, ten-acre spread. And he was also very prolific in making moonshine. They finally—the sheriff at the time finally caught him, so he went to Walla Walla for several years.
Franklin: The penitentiary.
Clark: To the penitentiary, because they frowned on that back in those days, I guess. Before he went to the penitentiary, he stopped at my grandmother’s, my grandparents’ house, and gave them a roll of money, and said, could you save this for me until I get back? So they did; they put it in their safe, which was a pipe in the side of the cellar, in the basement. They had a pipe, and they stuck that money in the pipe. So that was kind of the highlight, when he got back to them, he got his money back.
So there’s a lot of stories of, you know, the kids going down. John Kashier’s house had a dirt floor, as the story goes, but it was just immaculate. It was swept clean. And he was a bachelor, and he always had a can—or, not a can, but a handful of peanuts and raisins for each of the kids. So I guess by all accounts a very good neighbor.
Franklin: Popular one, too, I bet.
Clark: With the kids.
Franklin: And with the adults, right, for the—
Clark: Yeah, for the moonshine.
Franklin: Would this have been during Prohibition?
Clark: Possibly. Because, like I say, they were pretty intent on him. You don’t normally go to prison, I don’t think, so it probably was during prohibition times.
Franklin: When was your father born?
Clark: Well, he’s 92. Going to be 92.
Franklin: Will be 92. So, 1925.
Clark: Math wasn’t my best—yeah.
Franklin: Okay. Interesting. So what years did you go out with him? When was the last time you went out?
Clark: I think it was the last year of the Hanford-White Bluffs picnic, and that’s probably been gone eight years now, probably, is the approximately the last time they had that picnic. People were just getting pretty elderly.
Franklin: Sure, I mean, the last people born in those towns would’ve been born in the early ‘40s, so we’re approaching a wall.
Franklin: And who was running the Hanford-White Bluffs Pioneer Association?
Clark: You know, I talked to somebody on that. The one that I know best, and not that I really know her, is Annette Heriford, was really active in that. And then there was another gentleman that—They had a banquet the night before where everybody could kind of mix together, normally down at the Shiloh and then the next day they would have the picnic in the park.
Franklin: Was that Harry Anderson?
Clark: Harry Anderson, yeah.
Franklin: Okay. We recently just got the collection of his papers and all of the association documents.
Clark: Mm-hmm, right.
Franklin: And so you would go down there with your father and your uncles, you would go to the homestead, right, or the old house. And what else would you go see?
Clark: Well, we would then drive down to the pump plant which my grandfather used to operate.
Franklin: Oh, the pump station.
Clark: The actual pump station where they pump water into Hanford. And drive around and see the different—you know, Gilhulys lived here, and I used to pick asparagus in that field, and—so just kind of doing a little tour. And then we’d normally go by, because my dad retired from 200-East and West house, power houses in 200 East and West Area. So then we’d normally drive around the outside of that and then book on out.
Franklin: So your father also worked at Hanford?
Franklin: So he was one of the—was born there, but then was not fully displaced—
Clark: Well, yeah, he was. They came in and took the property.
Clark: “Buy.” It wasn’t really a buy; it was just, you get out of here and we’ll give you this amount of money.
Clark: And they moved to Yakima.
Clark: So that was in early ‘40s, I would guess.
Franklin: 1943, yeah.
Clark: Yeah. And then my dad enlisted in the Navy. And served in WWII. And then afterwards he went back to Yakima and worked for Picatti Brothers, which is pump operation.
Franklin: For irrigation?
Clark: Irrigation and domestic, and they rebuilt motors, and then he got on at Hanford as a motor-winder.
Franklin: And what is a motor-winder?
Clark: They actually rebuild electric motors, all the coils that are inside of them. I don’t think they do that anymore, probably, but back in the day, they did. They actually rewound them.
Franklin: What kind of electric motors? For--?
Clark: Anything. Any kind of electric motor. That’s what he started at Hanford doing, was in the motor shop.
Franklin: The motor shop. And this was in the 200 Area?
Clark: That was, I believe, in the 200 Area. And then he finally worked his way up. He was, when he retired, he was foreman for power and maintenance. He had a couple of crews, 18, 20 people, different crafts.
Franklin: How long did he work for Hanford?
Clark: Well, he retired when he was—started in 1950. And so 40, 40-plus years.
Franklin: Oh, so he retired in the ‘90s, wow.
Franklin: And so you said he worked his way up in the shop from being a motor-winder to a foreman.
Franklin: Wow, that’s really interesting. That’s quite a long career.
Clark: Yes. It was, you know, it was a good job.
Franklin: Did he ever talk about—what were his feelings on the forced removal and then being back there, working for that same project?
Clark: You know, I just think he got over it.
Clark: Everybody was in the same shape, as far as the old-timers that had lived out there, were in the same shape. Get out.
Franklin: Was there any bitterness, do you think? Maybe initially, or--?
Clark: Oh, I’m sure there was a lot of—I mean, those people would be saints if there weren’t bitterness. The story goes that one of the guys had an orchard, and he said, just—cherry orchard, I believe. And he said, okay, just give me another month so I can harvest my cherries, and I’ll give you the land. And they said, no. Out. So the story goes.
Clark: So I’m sure that there was a lot of bitterness. And I’m sure, in those days, nobody knew why. Or what was going on. They just knew that they were gone.
Franklin: Did your father ever express any bitterness or resentment?
Clark: I don’t believe so. I never saw that. And, actually, my grandparents who moved into Yakima didn’t either. But, there, again, some time had lapsed. Time, they say, cures everything. So.
Franklin: Except for old age.
Clark: Yeah, well, yes. I keep thinking that, maybe I ought to petition the government to give it back to who it was taken from. Which would be an interesting legal challenge.
Franklin: Well, yeah, on a few levels. Because, you know, before white settlers came there was also another—
Franklin: Yeah, another claim to that land. That would be very interesting. That would face some immediate legal challenges from, I think, many—
Clark: Oh, I’m sure that, yeah, definitely would. But the Indians used to stop by my grandparents’ all the time.
Franklin: Really? What—did they tell you about that, or--?
Clark: Yeah, they’d just say, oh, Johnny Buck stopped and walked in the house and had dinner with us. You know, he was kind of the chief, I guess, of the—And my grandfather, for a period of time, was a Benton County commissioner. So anything that happened in his end of the county, he was kind of—he’d take charge of it. So he knew all the Indians. He used to, the story goes, that he took the family car and went down to Horn Rapids, which is now Winwash or whatever-in-the-heck it is. But the Indians had deals set up; they were netting salmon. So anyway, they gave him as many salmon as he could haul. And he loaded up the backseat, you know. I’m sure it smelled great. And then he went around to the community and handed out salmon to people that needed food. So it was interesting.
Franklin: Yeah, that is very interesting. Kind of acting as a redistribution agent for that. So your grandparents, your family had pretty good relations, then with—
Clark: With the Indians.
Franklin: With the Wanapum.
Clark: Oh, yes, yes.
Franklin: That’s interesting because I’ve heard other stories from other people who mentioned friendly Wanapum visits, or they would ask people to store things for them if they were going to, like, a fishing camp and they didn’t want to carry everything.
Clark: Yeah, no, they stopped—Dad tells one story that the whole tribe stopped by. They were moving to some different area for fishing or for root collecting or whatever they were doing, and the whole tribe came by and waved and stopped for a little bit.
Clark: So they were all on very good terms. One of my uncles—there was a lot of arrowheads and those type of things that they found over the years. One of my uncles has actually took a bunch of his collection up to the new museum that they just built up at one of the dams. They built a nice museum, so he donated a bunch of his collection to them.
Franklin: Oh, that’s cool.
Clark: Actually, I think all of them.
Franklin: Oh, wow, that’s great. That’s always good to see that, to hear of that stuff getting—
Clark: Back to where it—
Franklin: Yeah, repatriated.
Clark: I mean, it wasn’t against the law at the time.
Clark: It is now, obviously. You’re not supposed to pick anything up. But back in those days, was just doing their thing.
Franklin: Right, and if there ever were laws they weren’t as enforced really, much, as they are now.
Franklin: No, that’s good to hear.
Clark: They used to—the boys, the older boys—there were six boys, and my grandfather used to go up to Priest Rapids and there was some kind of logjam up there. They would make a raft out of these logs that are floating down from dam construction or whatever they were doing on the river. And then they would float that to Hanford, which was a couple-day ordeal. And that was their firewood for the winter. So they’d pull it up, with the horses, and pull it up on the bank, and cut it up.
Franklin: Wow. That sounds really dangerous. To make a raft out of logs.
Clark: And you know, all the boys survived.
Franklin: Yeah, I’m sure. Well, they also knew how to do it, though, too, right? They had learned. I can just imagine somebody trying to do that today and probably getting killed.
Clark: Yes. Yes, probably most likely.
Franklin: Very much, I respect that knowledge of how to make a raft, a serviceable raft, out of reclaimed logs.
Clark: Well, they’d just lash it together, and put a big boom pole on it. They’d do one or two rafts, and away they went.
Franklin: Wow, wow. That’s really something.
Clark: Yeah, it’s quite an undertaking. And of course back in those days, they didn’t have chainsaws and all that stuff. So it was a tough way to make some firewood.
Franklin: Yeah, well, also, though, your options around here are pretty limited if you don’t want to burn sagebrush all the—which I imagine isn’t very good firewood.
Clark: I wouldn’t think so.
Franklin: Where did your father fall in the six boys? Was he—
Clark: He was number three.
Franklin: So he was square, pretty much, in the middle.
Franklin: Did any of your uncles work for Hanford?
Clark: Yes. My number two uncle worked out there for many, many years. I can’t even tell you what he—well, he worked with my father. I think on a different shift, but he was in management of some sort or another.
Franklin: Are the six brothers still pretty close—or were they pretty close?
Clark: They’ve been close all their lives.
Franklin: And did they all stay in the same area? After the displacement?
Clark: No. Well, the two youngest went to Yakima with my grandparents, because they were still in school. Then all of the older ones were in the service. And then when my oldest uncle got out of the service, then he moved to Yakima and went—his entire life, he only worked for one company and that was Picatti brothers. Who was a friend of my grandparents. The elder Picattis. And they’re still a viable company. So my uncle retired from Picatti Brothers after, I don’t know, a lot of years.
Franklin: Your grandparents probably knew him from then—
Clark: From Hanford.
Franklin: From working at the pump.
Clark: Yeah. They—because grandpa used to do, like, general contracting. Hand-dig wells. And so they kind of worked hand-in-hand with Picatti Brothers for pumps and that kind of stuff.
Franklin: Oh, I see.
Clark: They’ve been family friends for years.
Franklin: Would all of the boys often get together and go on the picnic—the White Bluffs-Hanford Reunion?
Clark: Normally there was three or four.
Franklin: Three or four.
Clark: Yeah. Well, probably, a lot of times there were five. One of my uncles ended up moving all over the Northwest for a power company. So he was, a lot of times, down in Medford or over in Montana. Someplace way out of the area. So he normally didn’t come up for the picnic, but the rest of the other five did.
Franklin: What did your grandparents do after moving—after being—moving to Yakima after being displaced?
Clark: My grandfather—my grandmother didn’t work outside of the house.
Clark: But my grandfather went to work for PP&L, Pacific Power and Light.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Clark: And he was running a substation there in Yakima for a lot of years.
Franklin: Did your grandfather ever get a chance, or grandmother, ever get a chance to go back onsite?
Clark: If they did, it was before my time.
Clark: They weren’t with us for those years that I went out.
Franklin: Sure. When did they pass away?
Clark: Now, that’s going back ancient history.
Clark: I should’ve brought my book. I’ve got a book that chronicles the whole family back, the Clarks and the Straddlings, which—but I didn’t bring it.
Franklin: That’s okay. Do you remember your grandmother or grandfather talking about the displacement, their feelings about it?
Clark: I didn’t really, like I say, they were displaced in ’43, ’42-’43, whatever. I was born in ’50. So, no, they’re not going to talk to a five-year-old, anyway, about that. So, yeah, there was never really much of any hard feelings that, at least, were apparent. Then they moved a lot of the graves to Prosser, which is where my grandparents were also buried. But they were buried at—they had never have been buried at Hanford, obviously, or it wouldn’t have been able to be moved. But then they moved a lot of those graves. Actually, I was—we go up there for Memorial Day every year and decorate graves. So I was cruising the—which sounds like fun, cruising the cemetery. And I found that John Kashier’s grave, which is—that one section is Hanford-White Bluffs. They were moved there. So I found his grave.
Franklin: Was your family close with any other families that were displaced and stayed in the area?
Clark: Not to any great extent. I mean, they kept in touch, but not—others, couple that were fairly close, the Burford family, and then the Meek family. And the Meeks used to own BB&M, was one of the owners of BB&M in Uptown Richland. So Dad used to see them quite a bit. And Don Burford still calls him. I think he’s in Port Angeles or someplace over there and still calls him every once in a while.
Franklin: Because your father is still alive, yes?
Franklin: Okay. And you said he’s 92.
Clark: He’s going to be 92.
Franklin: Going to be 92. So what about your—do you remember any recollections of your mother from growing up in White Bluffs, or her family’s—
Clark: They didn’t have the roots as deeply in White Bluffs as they did in Prosser.
Franklin: Ah, I see.
Clark: So, it wasn’t as big a deal, I don’t think. Because they had not been there—I guess they had an orchard and something out there. But they hadn’t been there as long as—and of course, with my step-grandfather working for AEC, you know, that was kind of all tied-in. I don’t know how long they actually lived in White Bluffs. Or whether he was one of the first ones there and then the movement came. I can’t tell you.
Franklin: Sure. Did you—when you would visit the site with your father and uncles, do you remember any other—are there any other experiences that stand out to you, anything else you saw, or—
Clark: Yeah, I mean, there were deer everywhere, as there still are. And we were driving along the river, and there’s a couple of baby bobcats that went up a tree. Back in those days, I was a little young and tougher. A little dumber, too. So I decided I was going to try to get those bobcats. And make pets. Well, they convinced me that that would not be a real smart move.
Franklin: The bobcats did, or your—
Clark: No, my uncles. Dad and uncles.
Franklin: Yeah. I bet Mama Bobcat would have something to say about that.
Clark: She wasn’t immediately visible. Not that she wasn’t there.
Franklin: I was going to say, she was probably watching.
Clark: I would guess.
Clark: But like I say, I was a little younger and dumber back in those days, and a whole lot tougher, so.
Franklin: Anything else that stands out to you?
Clark: No. It was interesting just to go through and they would point out, well, Gilhuly’s family lived here, and this is where John Kashier lived, this is where such-and-such lived, and this is where—you know. And then we’d go by the old store, which wasn’t there, but the bank in White Bluffs. And then they would talk about, you’d go in there for a nickel and get three ice cream cones or something. So it was interesting.
Franklin: And so you moved to Richland in—right, you were born in Yakima?
Clark: Born and moved, three days old. I don’t remember the move, but I understand I was three days old when I moved to Richland.
Franklin: And you grew up in Richland.
Franklin: And so your family, you guys lived in an Alphabet House, then, when you were a kid?
Franklin: A government-owned house. Describe that, describe growing up in Richland in the government days.
Clark: It was a great place to grow up. You’ve heard the stories. I mean, we rode bicycles without helmets, we drank out of the garden hose. I remember, I don’t know how often it was, but all the houses—not all of them, but most of the houses had coalbeds. And they would just drive up with a coal truck up to your little chute in the basement, the little window, and they opened up the window and filled it full of coal, and that’s what we heated with. But you didn’t—I was pretty young; I think they started selling those houses, if I remember, ’56, ’57.
Clark: Okay. So I was still pretty young to understand, but somebody’d come over and change light bulbs. Normally it was three people, because you had to have safety, and you had to have the manager, and the person who actually screwed the light bulb. So that was just the way it was. And for many, many years after that, when I finally got older and got into business, there was still a lot of people in the business community that didn’t like doing business with Hanford people.
Franklin: Really? Why is that?
Clark: Because there was the perception that they had been given, for many, many years had been given everything. I mean, you didn’t change your own lightbulbs. So there was that mindset.
Franklin: Was that a perception within the community of Richland, or more of a Tri-Cities—
Clark: More Kennewick, Pasco.
Franklin: Kennewick, Pasco thing.
Franklin: Dealing with Richland people. Well, I guess to a small extent, that was somewhat true. I mean, the level of home service you were talking about. You paid your rent and people came and delivered your coal to your house. Do you remember what kind of house you lived in? What Alphabet?
Clark: Yeah. My dad still lives there.
Franklin: Oh, okay. And what house is it?
Clark: It’s a B duplex.
Franklin: A B duplex. And where is it?
Clark: On McPherson. 1300 block on McPherson.
Franklin: Oh, okay. And that’s where you grew up and—
Franklin: And went through childhood and everything. Do you have any examples of people not—that kind of—because kind of I’m fascinated about that inter-cities relationship between Richland and Pasco and Kennewick.
Clark: Yeah, and I don’t have any specific other than you’d go into a business and be negotiating something with—and, you must be from Richland; you have that attitude. Of course, back in those days, you didn’t live in Richland, basically, unless you worked at Hanford. Especially up until ’58. I mean, if you lived there, you basically worked at Hanford or some kind of subsidiary.
Franklin: Right, you might have worked at a business in Uptown, or owned a business that had, though, that had the government contract to run that business.
Clark: Right. We had a good friend of mine I went to school with that his dad had a floor covering company in Richland. It took him a couple of years to get a contract to be able to do that, but anyway, he finally did. And spent many, many years in Richland doing floor covering.
Franklin: Mm. So you say that was kind of a perception from Kennewick and Pasco businesspeople that Richland people were kind of coddled or entitled?
Franklin: I guess is the word they’d use?
Clark: Entitled, maybe, is a good word for it.
Franklin: Okay. And did that persist for a while?
Clark: For a while, I mean, it wasn’t—because I didn’t really start in the business and I didn’t graduate from school until ’68, from high school. So it was after that, into the ‘70s before it—and then of course by that time, Richland had greatly expanded; a lot of people had moved in that didn’t work at Hanford. So it kind of changed that whole focus.
Franklin: Sure, sure. What do you remember about going to school in Hanford, especially in regard to—were they doing civil defense drills and things at the time that you were in elementary and middle school?
Clark: Right. You know, it wasn’t a huge deal, but they’d have an air raid, and you’d crawl under your desk. It wasn’t a huge deal, but they did it on a regular basis. So there was some thought to that.
Franklin: Were they practicing emergency routes at the time that you were in elementary, middle school where kids would get on buses and they would practice leaving town.
Clark: No. No, there wasn’t any of that that I recall. Of course, you have to understand, my first day of kindergarten, I went to a different school than what I ended up graduating from. First day of school, they got me to school, and when I came home, my folks had moved. And it was like three months before I found them. Nah, I’m kidding. [LAUGHTER] But, no, I don’t recall any bus route. I remember one time as a cub scout, I was able to, with cub scout group, go up to the Nike missiles up on the hill. At the base of Rattlesnake. And got a tour—somewhat of a tour of those missile silos.
Clark: And to this day I can’t tell you whether there was actually any missiles in them or if they were just the empty—just the facility. But I don’t think they’d let a bunch of cub scouts around a bunch of Nike missiles.
Franklin: Well, I mean, you never know.
Clark: And kids were a little dangerous, you know. Hit the wrong switch, and—
Franklin: You’d hope they’d have slightly better security for launching missiles than that.
Clark: You would hope so.
Franklin: When did you first—do you remember when you first found out or became aware of what was being made at Hanford?
Clark: No, because it was—you know, by the time that I was like going to school, I mean, that was out. I mean, obviously, they had used the atomic bombs and—so, everybody knew what it was.
Franklin: Were you ever worried about the effects of radiation or of production on your dad’s health, your family’s health?
Clark: You know, it’s always—I’m in the real estate business, and have been for 40-some years, okay? So one of the first things we got—you know: I don’t want to be anywhere close to Hanford. Okay, people moving into town, not working at Hanford, well, we want to stay as far away as we can. You know, if the people who were in charge of safety lived in Spokane, I might be a little concerned. But they live right here, too. So, really, I was never—never overly concerned that there was any kind of an issue. I mean, it’s all the Hanford employees had their dosimeters, their little badges they have. And then there was a metal box on our front porch for many, many years that the urine sample went in. They’d come around and collect them and they’d check just to make sure people weren’t getting a dose that they weren’t expecting.
Franklin: That was for employees, though, right?
Clark: Employees, correct.
Franklin: So, but what about—did you ever wonder about just the general—anything getting into the air or the water or anything like that?
Clark: No, like I said, the people that are in charge of that live here, too. So I was really never all that—and we used to hunt up on the Columbia River, on the Hanford Site, on the shoreline, which was legal to hunt waterfowl. And you know, you just never gave it much thought, that there was still a lot of messes, or still is, out there.
Franklin: What about the—given Hanford’s role in the production of material for two-thirds or three-quarters of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, did you ever worry about Hanford—about their being a danger in Hanford from a Cold War perspective? From a—that there might be reason to be doing all that civil defense, that Hanford might be a target?
Clark: Well, that’s why they had the Nike missile; that’s why they had Army out here.
Clark: Obviously, it was a factor. But one of the times that we went on the Hanford-White Bluffs picnic, and we were all staged there at the old Hanford school, high school, and here came a helicopter. And it swoop, swoop, swoop, sat down right there out in front of everybody, and three guys get out submachine guns. And it kind of goes—okay. And obviously, it was a show. But we were able to go tour the helicopter, so-to-speak, and talk to the people. And I asked them, I said, how—because they have heat-seeking stuff, or did. I don’t even think they have helicopters anymore. But they had heat-seeking. He said, I can find a snake if I want to. If I turn it down to that, I can find a snake.
So, obviously, security. And we, being raised in Richland—you know, what does your dad do? Well, he’s Hanford security. One of my buddies all through school was a courier, and he used to take highly secret stuff on trains. And they would take it wherever they were going, Savannah River, wherever, on a special train. And they were all armed with machine guns—I mean, it was pretty brutal.
Clark: But they just—so I’ve always felt safe. I mean. The Cold War was the Cold War, and Khrushchev taking off his shoe and beating it on the table was part of the rhetoric.
Franklin: Right, right.
Clark: They have kind of the same thing now.
Clark: [LAUGHTER] In our president.
Franklin: Ah. Can you elaborate? In what way, like how—
Clark: Well, he’s a little off the wall, kind of like Khrushchev is. Now, I like him; don’t get me wrong. But he’s a little off the wall.
Franklin: Yeah, he can get a little—act a little quickly sometimes, maybe. Where—luckily, in the Cold War, clearer heads prevailed—clear heads prevailed.
Franklin: Because I guess that’s where they—I understand the physical security, spies and operatives wouldn’t come, but what about—I mean, much of the Cold War was ruled by the fear of—because most of the nukes were on ICBMs or in planes, so I’m wondering, what about that more existential fear that could’ve become real, of Hanford likely being a site in a nuclear war?
Clark: Really didn’t cross my mind. I mean, I honestly would be more concerned right now, because of North Korea, than I was back in those days. There wasn’t really any great fear.
Franklin: Right. Yeah, luckily their rocket technology isn’t as good as the Soviets’ is yet—now. They keep trying, though. Very much so. So you live in Richland. Did you go to Columbia High?
Franklin: Now Richland High.
Franklin: So, proud Bomber. I’m wondering if you could—since you would’ve—you graduated in 1968, right, so you came of age in a very turbulent time in American culture.
Franklin: I’m wondering if you could speak to any kind of civil rights action in the Tri-Cities and what you observed if anything—
Clark: Not in Richland; in Pasco, yeah. During that timeframe, there was some riots. Pasco High School wasn’t exactly the safest—well, I shouldn’t say it wasn’t the safest place, but there was a lot of unrest. I mean, they kept their thumbs on it, but there was a lot of unrest.
Franklin: And what kind of unrest?
Clark: Oh, girls of different nationalities ganging together. But it really didn’t spill over into Richland. I’ve got good friends that are African Americans and there was several that—one in particular I went to school with, and then two years older, Fred Milton, who was a big, big black guy, a football player, was a good friend of my older brother’s, so he’d be over at the house all the time.
Franklin: And this was in Richland.
Clark: This was in Richland. But originally, the stories go, and I believe the stories to be true, there wasn’t any black people in Richland or especially in Kennewick. They were all Pasco.
Franklin: Right, because Kennewick had had sundown laws that prohibited homeownership. But there were a few African Americans in Richland, though, right, because—
Clark: There were, but not many. Not many. The guy that just passed away was a realtor for many years; I knew him well.
Franklin: CJ Mitchell.
Clark: CJ. His family was in Richland there. And you know, great family. I mean, it’s—so, yeah, we just—it never was really an issue during my time.
Franklin: Sure, sure. Do you remember the JFK visit in 1963?
Clark: I do! I was actually out there.
Franklin: Were you?
Franklin: Okay, I’m wondering if you could describe that.
Clark: [LAUGHTER] That’s been many years ago.
Franklin: Well, sure.
Clark: As I recall, it was just hotter than hell. And somehow I went out—I can’t remember now even how, but we got to see him. Maybe it was a scout deal or cub scout deal or something, but, anyway, I was able to go out there and see him. At the time, it was a big deal.
Franklin: What else do you remember about the event?
Clark: Really not much of anything, other than it was hotter than heck and longer than—you know, when you get a president speaking and a couple of senators speaking, and they’ve all got to say everything they can say.
Franklin: Right, also, I bet there’s a lot of lead-up to the actual event. What did your mother do?
Clark: She worked. She retired at the public health department.
Franklin: Okay, was that for Kadlec or for—
Clark: No, for Benton and Franklin Counties. She wrote the checks.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Clark: She was a bookkeeper of some type. So I’ve always had a good in with the folks there at the health department. You want your check? Approve this plat or you don’t get your paycheck. Obviously, she wouldn’t do that, but it was always a good story.
Franklin: Yeah, I bet. Did she ever work any with Hanford or anybody out at Hanford?
Clark: You know, I think she did very early on, but that really would’ve been in the, probably late ‘40s. Because I don’t think, you know, with four kids to raise—I know that she didn’t work after, you know, in my memory.
Franklin: Did she ever go out to the Site with any of the reunions?
Clark: Not to my knowledge.
Franklin: Okay. Has she passed?
Franklin: Okay. And so then after you graduated from Columbia-slash-Richland High, did you stay in the area, or--?
Clark: Stayed in the area, actually bought a B house.
Clark: In ’70, I believe.
Franklin: Really? At 20 years old.
Clark: At 20 years old. And I sold it, I think, ’72 or ’73 and bought some other properties. Ended up moving to Kennewick for a while, and then ended up, in ’80, I think, I bought a house in Pasco.
Clark: So, where I currently am.
Franklin: And so did you get bitten by the realtor bug early on then, or--?
Clark: You know, when I bought my duplex in Richland, I paid $18.5k for it. And I don’t remember much about it. I was kind of doing odd jobs, and I worked for this realtor, Clair Groves, used to have Allied Brokers down the river shore. I said, Clair, if you ever find a house, a B duplex, I’m interested. So anyway, he called me one day, I found one, I looked at it, 18.5. Okay, how much down? $600. So I borrowed the 600 from my grandmother and bought it. And the only thing I really remember off the closing statement was how much money he made. Of course, I didn’t pay him; the seller did. But still. And I thought, that’s a pretty lucrative business; I can do that. So, yeah, so in ’72 I got a license to—and I’ve been in it ever since.
Franklin: Ah, I see. So you’ve bought and sold property, then, all over the—
Clark: All over the Tri-Cities.
Franklin: You’ve sold, I assume, a fair number of old Alphabet Houses or prefabs.
Clark: Yeah. Prefabs is—I’m working on one now that I own, and I’ve owned one or two others. But that’s it, because they’re a bearcat to—there’s no halfway fix.
Franklin: Right. I live in a prefab.
Clark: I know. But if you start remodeling it, there’s no going partway. You’ve really got to do it, do it all.
Franklin: Oh, okay. Right. Well, they were really never—I mean, they were temporary housing.
Clark: Oh, yeah. Flat roof, just like, an oven, I guess, the first couple years they were there, and then they put the peaked roofs on them. Yeah, they were built to last four years, five years. And a lot of them are still there, and a lot of them are excellent homes.
Franklin: Yeah. Do you find you have a special affinity for Alphabet Homes? A connection? Are you keyed into that history at all?
Clark: Yeah. No. Well, the market for As and Bs, and Cs, if you can find a C, and there’s another one, D, I think, that are duplexes. They’re almost not—they’re very hard to find, available. So, and the price has gone from, I paid $18.5 for mine, and I sold it for $26, I think. Now they’re about $175 to $200-plus depending on condition and what’s been done.
Franklin: So you find they’re desirable, then? Is that what—
Clark: Yeah. And extremely well-built. I mean, obviously, they’re getting old.
Clark: But they used extremely good lumber. Because it was a war effort, and they came in. I mean, some of the duplexes actually had full basements that were all completely built that way. And then they found out that the contract said you don’t do that; you only do half-basements. So they went and filled them back in with dirt and put the wall in that was standard. So, yeah, it’s interesting. But they’re good solid properties.
Clark: And there’s been a lot of money in Richland because of the price they paid for their real estate when they bought them in ’58, so they were paid off, you know, a few years. So people have been able to afford to upgrade them. So it’s hard to find one now that’s original. I mean, something’s been done to them over the years.
Franklin: Oh sure, I mean, you’re talking—
Clark: Human nature.
Franklin: We’re talking about houses that are 70 years old or more, or around there. That’s pretty standard for—at least as far as the—you’re talking especially about insides, right, the guts of the house.
Franklin: Not so much the—
Clark: Not so much the outside.
Franklin: Well, and if you change the outside too much, then it’s not really the same house anymore.
Clark: When I was a kid, probably 12, 12 or 13, my dad went in partners with a guy who bought, I think a half of one of the barracks out here at Hanford when the Army moved out, and then they were going to just tear them down. So we went out and tore it down. We got the lumber that we tore down, recycled it, and my dad built his big garage with it, and we put an addition out the back of the B house on his side. That was a lot of fun.
Franklin: Interesting. That’s kind of neat. That’s also kind of historic, or interesting reuse operation, kind of combining this historic Army structure with—that’s very interesting. And that was done in the ‘60s?
Franklin: Yeah, that’s really cool. I do historic preservation, so it’s always kind of interesting to hear of good reuse projects like that.
Franklin: And the flavor, that’s great, too. So, being a graduate of Columbia and Richland High—at that time, you graduated, were they using the Bombers, the cloud imagery?
Franklin: I’m wondering—that’s a very—I don’t know, loaded, or charged, symbol.
Franklin: I’m trying to find a way to phrase that properly. I think you get—I think you know what I’m getting at. I’m wondering, can I get your thoughts on that, on that particular symbol and that mascot?
Clark: You know, it served us for many years. I guess I’m just an old redneck, but politically correct is—I mean, it’s just gone way overboard. I’ve got a very good friend of mine that just lost his wife a couple of weeks ago. And she was from Japan. She’d tell stories during the bombing and stuff that they’d take all the kids up and hide them in caves in Japan. But there wasn’t—there hasn’t been really any animosity between us and, like I say, her, she’s been a friend of mine for years. But there wasn’t any—so the bombs created a lot of death, yes. How many lives did it save? And the cost of invading Japan in human lives would’ve been—because those people would’ve fought to the last person. So the war got over, a lot of people didn’t die that could’ve died on both sides. So it was kind of like this, one of the necessities of war.
Franklin: Hmm. I wonder, though, how—as that generation is—the World War II generation is almost gone.
Franklin: I’m wondering, how strong of a—how that connection will carry on as—
Clark: You mean with the bomb logo?
Franklin: You know there’s a generation now that is the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of that, who kind of come—
Clark: You try to change it again, and you’re going to get those of us, and there’s a couple of people I can think of their names, that would just have a fit. And very vocal people. So, yeah, maybe another 30 years, when us old guys are all gone, too, maybe they’ll look back and say, well, let’s get rid of that. But it’s just like that R in ’67, that R that was placed up on the hill and that the school district in their infinite wisdom decided to remove without telling anybody. And people came up in arms about it. And now they’ve replaced it. Old school.
Franklin: Cool. Is there anything that I—or, actually, no, sorry, second-to-last question.
Franklin: What would you like future generations to know about growing up in Richland, living in Richland during the Cold War?
Clark: You know, I have absolutely no complaints. It was still, then, pretty much a small town, extremely safe town. I mean, you’d be out at midnight, and nobody worried about any kind of violence going on. Or if you’re 17 years old and you got picked up with a six-pack of beer, the cops’d get you. Pour it out, and go home. I mean, it was just laidback, small town, everybody knew everybody. Which is a drawback, because it’s going, who are you taking out tonight? Well, I’m taking out--. Who are you taking out? Oh, yeah, I know her mom real well. Oh, good. That’s not what I wanted to hear.
Franklin: That’s interesting. I hear that a lot. And it strikes me that that—the factors that underlie that seem to be that everyone—it was so safe and so secure because the government before ’58 had a very tight control over who lived in the town. But also it was a town of almost full employment and good employment and government employment. So there seems to be—in a town with all this safety and security and freedom, there was also this heavy government hand in some ways.
Clark: You know, there, again, in ’58, I was eight years old. So I certainly wouldn’t have felt that. But, yeah, I mean, you couldn’t paint your house or anything that we’re just used to. I mean, you could have it painted; you could get somebody to come in—they’d send a crew of 12 to paint your house; it took them three weeks, you know? But, yeah, there again, I was awfully young to be able to—I probably wouldn’t have felt any of that.
Franklin: Sure, sure.
Clark: But growing up, like I say, it was—in a fairly wealthy town, from the standpoint that basically all the water and sewer, electricity, all of that stuff was, in essence, given to the city when it became private. So the people in the city didn’t have to pay for it. Now, obviously, we’re paying for it now because a lot of it’s getting old and they have to update the infrastructure.
Clark: But that wasn’t the way in the beginning. Because it was all basically in top shape and given to the city to say, here, operate it.
Franklin: Right. I mean, they needed good facilities to get good people to come and stay. Yeah, that’s good—
Clark: And I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of stories of people coming here and the first windstorm blew them back out of town.
Franklin: Oh yeah, very much so. Yeah, it seems people that stayed were more often the exception than the rule in those early days. But that’s a good point, that Richland, when it incorporated, really had started off on a very good foot in terms of all that government investment really created Richland as this middle class, upper middle class city. In comparison to Kennewick and Pasco which had much different origins.
Franklin: And that, like you alluded to before, that might explain—not, you alluded; that you stated, that might explain some of that resentment.
Clark: I mean, they wouldn’t actually put a sign up on the front door saying no Richland people allowed. So it was—
Franklin: Kind of subtext, kind of underneath the surface, when the Richland people were gone, they might be like, oh, those Richland people, again, you know?
Clark: Well, there again, the wages weren’t top wages, but they were pretty close. They were good-paying jobs. And where most people, you know, I mean, your dad worked at Hanford. You can’t get fired from Hanford, or it’s extremely difficult to get fired from Hanford. You just showed up, did your job, and okay. It’s not the real world, I mean, people in Kennewick and Pasco didn’t have that. I mean, you only worked if you could make the boss money. And in this case, the boss was the people, the taxpayers. So it was kind of like, hey, you’ve got a job here forever.
Franklin: Well, and the product was one of very high demand.
Franklin: You know, at war there.
Clark: Well, it’s basically, it’s been good for a lot of families.
Franklin: Oh, yeah, very much so. Well, great, Glen, is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to mention?
Clark: No, I think you’ve pretty well done a good job and kind of covered the bases.
Franklin: Okay, well, great, thank you. Thank you so much.
Clark: You betcha.